Chinese Outward Foreign Direct Investment in Developed and Developing Countries: Converging Characteristics?
The spectacular surge in Chinese outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) has been reinforced by China’s accession to the WTO (2001). The understanding of their determinants remains a key theoretical question, in particular whether they confirm the standard conceptual framework - ‘ownership’, ‘location’, ‘internalisation’ (OLI) and ‘linkages’ (augmenting competences by learning). The paper argues that the determinants of Chinese OFDI change over time and converge toward global strategies, via a comparison between Chinese OFDI in developed countries (based on an original database of 1800 investment operations in Europe from 2002 onwards) and in developing countries (Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America). While their impacts indeed vary according to countries’ contexts, Chinese OFDI in developed and developing countries converges toward complex and similar motives, become more mature through the combination of various modes of entry (greenfield and mergers-and-acquisitions), and exhibit more commonalities than differences. The comparison thus demonstrates that while the determinants of Chinese OFDI in developed countries were initially access to their markets, they now include efficiency-seeking motives (dispersing design, R&D and production) and assets-seeking (or augmenting assets) motives, the latter’s prevalence in developed countries (e.g., patents, skills, brands) remaining a contrast with developing countries. Chinese OFDI in developing countries is mostly driven by resource-seeking motives (strategic inputs for China’s growth), but also in resource-endowed developed countries (Australia, Canada). Large investments are driven by Chinese state-backed firms both in developed and developing countries. The growing number of Chinese small and medium private enterprises which invest in developing countries (e.g., Sub-Saharan Africa) shows that market access has increasingly become a determinant of OFDI, together with efficiency - and assets-seeking motives - rising labour costs in China being incentives for relocating abroad, in particular in labour-intensive sectors where competitiveness is driven by prices. Chinese firms often conduct these various strategies simultaneously.
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